Last update:


Arch Hellen Med, 20(3), May-June 2003, 319-325


Constantin Levaditi: An unknown pioneer in immunology research

Department of History of Medicine, Medical School, University of Athens, Athens, Greece

The aim of this study is to present the scientific work of Constantin Levaditi (1874–1953), the unknown pioneer in immunology research. Information was collected through secondary data, such as international bibliographic sources and especially the archives of the Pasteur Institute, where the inspired doctor spent most of his fruitful career. Constantin Levaditi was born in Romania. His parents were comrades of the prince Alexandros Ipsilantis. From his student years in Bucharest, Levaditi showed his tendency towards laboratory research. After having spent one year beside Paul Ehrlich, he became established in Paris. Soon he began to work at Metchnikoff’s laboratory in the Pasteur Institute. A few years later, Emile Roux, the director of the famous Institute, gave Levaditi the opportunity to create an independent laboratory in which he served medicine during his entire scientific life. The experimental work of Levaditi was multilateral; in cooperation with numerous famous scientists of his era, such as Landsteiner, Lepine and Metchnikoff, he studied the epidemiology of poliomyelitis. His pioneer experiments formed the scientific basis for the discovery of the relevant vaccines. Levaditi also dealt with syphilis; he introduced new serological techniques for the diagnosis of the disease and applied bismuth as a means of treatment. Among other subjects, his long-lasting scientific course includes the study of lethargical encephalitis, recurrent fever and erythema multiforme. Moreover, Levaditi investigated the effect of many well-known antibiotics. His pioneer experiments have been recorded in a series of important articles and publications. Because of his modesty and his selfless devotion to medical research, Constantin Levaditi never gained the fame that his scientific work deserved. In the case of poliomyelitis, his name was overshadowed by the relevant work of Landsteiner. Nevertheless, his contribution to the understanding of the epidemiology as well as to the eradication of poliomyelitis was of outmost importance. Despite the fact that most people still ignore his work, Constantin Levaditi may be considered to be one of the most significant European researchers in immunology and virology.

Key words: C. Levaditi, Immunology, Pasteur Institute, Poliomyelitis, Virology.

© Archives of Hellenic Medicine